Republic of the Philippines

G.R. No. 108576

January 20, 1999

SORIANO CORP., respondents.
Petitioner Commissioner of Internal Revenue (CIR) seeks the
reversal of the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA)1 which
affirmed the ruling of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) 2 that private
respondent A. Soriano Corporation’s (hereinafter ANSCOR)
redemption and exchange of the stocks of its foreign stockholders
cannot be considered as “essentially equivalent to a distribution of
taxable dividends” under, Section 83(b) of the 1939 Internal
Revenue Act. 3
The undisputed facts are as follows:
Sometime in the 1930s, Don Andres Soriano, a citizen and resident
of the United States, formed the corporation “A. Soriano Y Cia”,
predecessor of ANSCOR, with a P1,000,000.00 capitalization
divided into 10,000 common shares at a par value of P100/share.
ANSCOR is wholly owned and controlled by the family of Don
Andres, who are all non-resident aliens. 4 In 1937, Don Andres
subscribed to 4,963 shares of the 5,000 shares originally issued. 5
On September 12, 1945, ANSCOR’s authorized capital stock was
increased to P2,500,000.00 divided into 25,000 common shares
with the same par value, of the additional 15,000 shares, only
10,000 was issued which were all subscribed by Don Andres, after
the other stockholders waived in favor of the former their preemptive rights to subscribe to the new issues. 6 This increased his
subscription to 14,963 common shares. 7 A month later, 8 Don
Andres transferred 1,250 shares each to his two sons, Jose and
Andres, Jr., as their initial investments in ANSCOR. 9 Both sons are
foreigners. 10

By 1947, ANSCOR declared stock dividends. Other stock dividend
declarations were made between 1949 and December 20,
1963. 11 On December 30, 1964 Don Andres died. As of that date,
the records revealed that he has a total shareholdings of 185,154
shares 12 — 50,495 of which are original issues and the balance of
declarations. 13 Correspondingly, one-half of that shareholdings or
92,577 14 shares were transferred to his wife, Doña Carmen
Soriano, as her conjugal share. The other half formed part of his
estate. 15
A day after Don Andres died, ANSCOR increased its capital stock
to P20M 16 and in 1966 further increased it to P30M. 17 In the same
year (December 1966), stock dividends worth 46,290 and 46,287
shares were respectively received by the Don Andres estate 18 and
Doña Carmen from ANSCOR. Hence, increasing their
accumulated shareholdings to 138,867 and 138,864 19 common
shares each. 20
On December 28, 1967, Doña Carmen requested a ruling from the
United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS), inquiring if an
exchange of common with preferred shares may be considered as
a tax avoidance scheme 21under Section 367 of the 1954 U.S.
Revenue Act. 22 By January 2, 1968, ANSCOR reclassified its
existing 300,000 common shares into 150,000 common and
150,000 preferred shares. 23
In a letter-reply dated February 1968, the IRS opined that the
exchange is only a recapitalization scheme and not tax
avoidance. 24 Consequently, 25 on March 31, 1968 Doña Carmen
exchanged her whole 138,864 common shares for 138,860 of the
newly reclassified preferred shares. The estate of Don Andres in
turn, exchanged 11,140 of its common shares, for the remaining
11,140 preferred shares, thus reducing its (the estate) common
shares to 127,727. 26
On June 30, 1968, pursuant to a Board Resolution, ANSCOR
redeemed 28,000 common shares from the Don Andres’ estate. By
November 1968, the Board further increased ANSCOR’s capital
stock to P75M divided into 150,000 preferred shares and 600,000
common shares. 27 About a year later, ANSCOR again redeemed
80,000 common shares from the Don Andres’ estate, 28 further
reducing the latter’s common shareholdings to 19,727. As stated in
the Board Resolutions, ANSCOR’s business purpose for both
redemptions of stocks is to partially retire said stocks as treasury

shares in order to reduce the company’s foreign exchange
remittances in case cash dividends are declared. 29
In 1973, after examining ANSCOR’s books of account and records,
Revenue examiners issued a report proposing that ANSCOR be
assessed for deficiency withholding tax-at-source, pursuant to
Sections 53 and 54 of the 1939 Revenue Code, 30 for the year 1968
and the second quarter of 1969 based on the transactions of
exchange 31 and redemption of stocks. 31 The Bureau of Internal
Revenue (BIR) made the corresponding assessments despite the
claim of ANSCOR that it availed of the tax amnesty under
Presidential Decree (P.D.) 23 32 which were amended by P.D.’s 67
and 157. 33 However, petitioner ruled that the invoked decrees do
not cover Sections 53 and 54 in relation to Article 83(b) of the 1939
Revenue Act under which ANSCOR was assessed. 34 ANSCOR’s
subsequent protest on the assessments was denied in 1983 by
petitioner. 35
Subsequently, ANSCOR filed a petition for review with the CTA
assailing the tax assessments on the redemptions and exchange
of stocks. In its decision, the Tax Court reversed petitioner’s ruling,
after finding sufficient evidence to overcome the prima
facie correctness of the questioned assessments. 36 In a petition
for review the CA as mentioned, affirmed the ruling of the
CTA. 37 Hence, this petition.
The bone of contention is the interpretation and application of
Section 83(b) of the 1939 Revenue Act 38 which provides:
Sec. 83. Distribution of dividends or assets by corporations. —
(b) Stock dividends — A stock dividend representing the transfer of
surplus to capital account shall not be subject to tax. However, if a
corporation cancels or redeems stock issued as a dividend at such
time and in such manner as to make the distribution and
cancellation or redemption, in whole or in part, essentially
equivalent to the distribution of a taxable dividend, the amount so
distributed in redemption or cancellation of the stock shall be
considered as taxable income to the extent it represents a
distribution of earnings or profits accumulated after March first,
nineteen hundred and thirteen. (Emphasis supplied)
Specifically, the issue is whether ANSCOR’s redemption of stocks
from its stockholder as well as the exchange of common with
preferred shares can be considered as “essentially equivalent to
the distribution of taxable dividend” making the proceeds thereof
taxable under the provisions of the above-quoted law.

Petitioner contends that the exchange transaction is tantamount to
“cancellation” under Section 83(b) making the proceeds thereof
taxable. It also argues that the Section applies to stock dividends
which is the bulk of stocks that ANSCOR redeemed. Further,
petitioner claims that under the “net effect test,” the estate of Don
Andres gained from the redemption. Accordingly, it was the duty of
ANSCOR to withhold the tax-at-source arising from the two
transactions, pursuant to Section 53 and 54 of the 1939 Revenue
Act. 39
ANSCOR, however, avers that it has no duty to withhold any tax
either from the Don Andres estate or from Doña Carmen based on
the two transactions, because the same were done for legitimate
business purposes which are (a) to reduce its foreign exchange
remittances in the event the company would declare cash
dividends, 40 and to (b) subsequently “filipinized” ownership of
ANSCOR, as allegedly, envisioned by Don Andres. 41 It likewise
invoked the amnesty provisions of P.D. 67.
We must emphasize that the application of Sec. 83(b) depends on
the special factual circumstances of each case.42 The findings of
facts of a special court (CTA) exercising particular expertise on the
subject of tax, generally binds this Court, 43 considering that it is
substantially similar to the findings of the CA which is the final
arbiter of questions of facts. 44 The issue in this case does not only
deal with facts but whether the law applies to a particular set of
facts. Moreover, this Court is not necessarily bound by the lower
courts’ conclusions of law drawn from such facts. 45
We will deal first with the issue of tax amnesty. Section 1 of P.D.
67 46 provides:
1. In all cases of voluntary disclosures of previously untaxed
income and/or wealth such as earnings, receipts, gifts, bequests or
any other acquisitions from any source whatsoever which are
taxable under the National Internal Revenue Code, as amended,
realized here or abroad by any taxpayer, natural or judicial; the
collection of all internal revenue taxes including the increments or
penalties or account of non-payment as well as all civil, criminal or
administrative liabilities arising from or incident to such disclosures
under the National Internal Revenue Code, the Revised Penal
Code, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Revised
Administrative Code, the Civil Service laws and regulations, laws
and regulations on Immigration and Deportation, or any other

applicable law or proclamation, are hereby condoned and, in lieu
thereof, a tax of ten (10%) per centum on such previously untaxed
income or wealth, is hereby imposed, subject to the following
conditions: (conditions omitted) [Emphasis supplied].
The decree condones “the collection of all internal revenue taxes
including the increments or penalties or account of non-payment
as well as all civil, criminal or administrative liable arising from or
incident to” (voluntary) disclosures under the NIRC of previously
untaxed income and/or wealth “realized here or abroad by any
taxpayer, natural or juridical.”
May the withholding agent, in such capacity, be deemed a taxpayer
for it to avail of the amnesty? An income taxpayer covers all
persons who derive taxable income. 47 ANSCOR was assessed by
petitioner for deficiency withholding tax under Section 53 and 54 of
the 1939 Code. As such, it is being held liable in its capacity as a
withholding agent and not its personality as a taxpayer.
In the operation of the withholding tax system, the withholding
agent is the payor, a separate entity acting no more than an agent
of the government for the collection of the tax 48 in order to ensure
its payments; 49 the payer is the taxpayer — he is the person
subject to tax impose by law; 50 and the payee is the taxing
authority. 51 In other words, the withholding agent is merely a tax
collector, not a taxpayer. Under the withholding system, however,
the agent-payor becomes a payee by fiction of law. His (agent)
liability is direct and independent from the taxpayer, 52 because the
income tax is still impose on and due from the latter. The agent is
not liable for the tax as no wealth flowed into him — he earned no
income. The Tax Code only makes the agent personally liable for
the tax 53 arising from the breach of its legal duty to withhold as
distinguish from its duty to pay tax since:
the government’s cause of action against the withholding is not for
the collection of income tax, but for the enforcement of the
withholding provision of Section 53 of the Tax Code, compliance
with which is imposed on the withholding agent and not upon the
taxpayer. 54
Not being a taxpayer, a withholding agent, like ANSCOR in this
transaction is not protected by the amnesty under the decree.
Codal provisions on withholding tax are mandatory and must be
complied with by the withholding agent. 55 The taxpayer should not
answer for the non-performance by the withholding agent of its
legal duty to withhold unless there is collusion or bad faith. The

former could not be deemed to have evaded the tax had the
withholding agent performed its duty. This could be the situation for
which the amnesty decree was intended. Thus, to curtail tax
evasion and give tax evaders a chance to reform, 56 it was deemed
administratively feasible to grant tax amnesty in certain instances.
In addition, a “tax amnesty, much like a tax exemption, is never
favored nor presumed in law and if granted by a statute, the term
of the amnesty like that of a tax exemption must be construed
strictly against the taxpayer and liberally in favor of the taxing
authority. 57 The rule on strictissimi juris equally applies. 58 So that,
any doubt in the application of an amnesty law/decree should be
resolved in favor of the taxing authority.
Furthermore, ANSCOR’s claim of amnesty cannot prosper. The
implementing rules of P.D. 370 which expanded amnesty on
previously untaxed income under P.D. 23 is very explicit, to wit:
Sec. 4. Cases not covered by amnesty. — The following cases are
not covered by the amnesty subject of these regulations:
xxx xxx xxx
(2) Tax liabilities with or without assessments, on withholding tax
at source provided under Section 53 and 54 of the National Internal
Revenue Code, as amended; 59
ANSCOR was assessed under Sections 53 and 54 of the 1939 Tax
Code. Thus, by specific provision of law, it is not covered by the
General Rule
Sec. 83(b) of the 1939 NIRC was taken from the Section 115(g)(1)
of the U.S. Revenue Code of 1928. 60 It laid down the general rule
known as the proportionate test 61 wherein stock dividends once
issued form part of the capital and, thus, subject to income
tax. 62 Specifically, the general rule states that:
A stock dividend representing the transfer of surplus to capital
account shall not be subject to tax.
Having been derived from a foreign law, resort to the jurisprudence
of its origin may shed light. Under the US Revenue Code, this
provision originally referred to “stock dividends” only, without any
exception. Stock dividends, strictly speaking, represent capital and
do not constitute income to its recipient. 63 So that the mere
issuance thereof is not yet subject to income tax 64 as they are

nothing but an “enrichment through increase in value of capital
investment.” 65 As capital, the stock dividends postpone the
realization of profits because the “fund represented by the new
stock has been transferred from surplus to capital and no longer
available for actual distribution.” 66 Income in tax law is “an amount
of money coming to a person within a specified time, whether as
payment for services, interest, or profit from investment.” 67 It
means cash or its equivalent. 68 It is gain derived and severed from
capital, 69 from labor or from both combined 70 — so that to tax a
stock dividend would be to tax a capital increase rather than the
income. 71 In a loose sense, stock dividends issued by the
corporation, are considered unrealized gain, and cannot be
subjected to income tax until that gain has been realized. Before
the realization, stock dividends are nothing but a representation of
an interest in the corporate properties. 72 As capital, it is not yet
subject to income tax. It should be noted that capital and income
are different. Capital is wealth or fund; whereas income is profit or
gain or the flow of wealth. 73 The determining factor for the
imposition of income tax is whether any gain or profit was derived
from a transaction. 74
The Exception
However, if a corporation cancels or redeems stock issued as
a dividend at such time and in such manner as to make
the distribution and cancellation or redemption, in whole or in part,
essentially equivalent to the distribution of a taxable dividend, the
amount so distributed in redemption or cancellation of the stock
shall be considered as taxable income to the extent it represents a
distribution of earnings or profits accumulated after March first,
nineteen hundred and thirteen. (Emphasis supplied).
In a response to the ruling of the American Supreme Court in the
case of Eisner v. Macomber 75 (that pro rata stock dividends are
not taxable income), the exempting clause above quoted was
added because provision corporation found a loophole in the
original provision. They resorted to devious means to circumvent
the law and evade the tax. Corporate earnings would be distributed
under the guise of its initial capitalization by declaring the stock
dividends previously issued and later redeem said dividends by
paying cash to the stockholder. This process of issuanceredemption amounts to a distribution of taxable cash dividends
which was lust delayed so as to escape the tax. It becomes a
convenient technical strategy to avoid the effects of taxation.

Thus, to plug the loophole — the exempting clause was added. It
provides that the redemption or cancellation of stock dividends,
depending on the “time” and “manner” it was made, is essentially
equivalent to a distribution of taxable dividends,” making the
proceeds thereof “taxable income” “to the extent it represents
profits”. The exception was designed to prevent the issuance and
cancellation or redemption of stock dividends, which is
fundamentally not taxable, from being made use of as a device for
the actual distribution of cash dividends, which is taxable. 76 Thus,
the provision had the obvious purpose of preventing a corporation
from avoiding dividend tax treatment by distributing earnings to its
shareholders in two transactions — a pro rata stock dividend
followed by a pro rata redemption — that would have the same
economic consequences as a simple dividend. 77
Although redemption and cancellation are generally considered
capital transactions, as such. they are not subject to tax. However,
it does not necessarily mean that a shareholder may not realize a
taxable gain from such transactions. 78 Simply put, depending on
the circumstances, the proceeds of redemption of stock dividends
are essentially distribution of cash dividends, which when paid
becomes the absolute property of the stockholder. Thereafter, the
latter becomes the exclusive owner thereof and can exercise the
freedom of choice. 79 Having realized gain from that redemption,
the income earner cannot escape income tax. 80
As qualified by the phrase “such time and in such manner,” the
exception was not intended to characterize as taxable dividend
every distribution of earnings arising from the redemption of stock
dividend. 81 So that, whether the amount distributed in the
redemption should be treated as the equivalent of a “taxable
dividend” is a question of fact, 82 which is determinable on “the
basis of the particular facts of the transaction in question. 83 No
decisive test can be used to determine the application of the
exemption under Section 83(b). The use of the words “such
manner” and “essentially equivalent” negative any idea that a
weighted formula can resolve a crucial issue — Should the
distribution be treated as taxable dividend. 84 On this aspect,
American courts developed certain recognized criteria, which
includes the following: 85
1) the presence or absence of real business purpose,

2) the amount of earnings and profits available for the declaration
of a regular dividends and the corporation’s past record with
respect to the declaration of dividends,
3) the effect of the distribution, as compared with the declaration of
regular dividend,
4) the lapse of time between issuance and redemption, 86
5) the presence of a substantial surplus 87 and a generous supply
of cash which invites suspicion as does a meager policy in relation
both to current earnings and accumulated surplus,88
For the exempting clause of Section, 83(b) to apply, it is
indispensable that: (a) there is redemption or cancellation; (b) the
transaction involves stock dividends and (c) the “time and manner”
of the transaction makes it “essentially equivalent to a distribution
of taxable dividends.” Of these, the most important is the third.
Redemption is repurchase, a reacquisition of stock by a corporation
which issued the stock 89 in exchange for property, whether or not
the acquired stock is cancelled, retired or held in the
treasury. 90 Essentially, the corporation gets back some of its stock,
distributes cash or property to the shareholder in payment for the
stock, and continues in business as before. The redemption of
stock dividends previously issued is used as a veil for the
constructive distribution of cash dividends. In the instant case,
there is no dispute that ANSCOR redeemed shares of stocks from
a stockholder (Don Andres) twice (28,000 and 80,000 common
shares). But where did the shares redeemed come from? If its
source is the original capital subscriptions upon establishment of
the corporation or from initial capital investment in an existing
enterprise, its redemption to the concurrent value of acquisition
may not invite the application of Sec. 83(b) under the 1939 Tax
Code, as it is not income but a mere return of capital. On the
contrary, if the redeemed shares are from stock dividend
declarations other than as initial capital investment, the proceeds
of the redemption is additional wealth, for it is not merely a return
of capital but a gain thereon.
It is not the stock dividends but the proceeds of its redemption that
may be deemed as taxable dividends. Here, it is undisputed that at
the time of the last redemption, the original common shares owned
by the estate were only 25,247.5 91 This means that from the total
of 108,000 shares redeemed from the estate, the balance of

82,752.5 (108,000 less 25,247.5) must have come from stock
dividends. Besides, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the
Tax Code presumes that every distribution of corporate property,
in whole or in part, is made out of corporate profits 92 such as stock
dividends. The capital cannot be distributed in the form of
redemption of stock dividends without violating the trust fund
doctrine — wherein the capital stock, property and other assets of
the corporation are regarded as equity in trust for the payment of
the corporate creditors. 93 Once capital, it is always capital. 94 That
doctrine was intended for the protection of corporate creditors. 95
With respect to the third requisite, ANSCOR redeemed stock
dividends issued just 2 to 3 years earlier. The time alone that
lapsed from the issuance to the redemption is not a sufficient
indicator to determine taxability. It is a must to consider the factual
circumstances as to the manner of both the issuance and the
redemption. The “time” element is a factor to show a device to
evade tax and the scheme of cancelling or redeeming the same
shares is a method usually adopted to accomplish the end
sought. 96 Was this transaction used as a “continuing plan,”
“device” or “artifice” to evade payment of tax? It is necessary to
determine the “net effect” of the transaction between the
shareholder-income taxpayer and the acquiring (redeeming)
corporation. 97 The “net effect” test is not evidence or testimony to
be considered; it is rather an inference to be drawn or a conclusion
to be reached.98 It is also important to know whether the issuance
of stock dividends was dictated by legitimate business reasons, the
presence of which might negate a tax evasion plan. 99
The issuance of stock dividends and its subsequent redemption
must be separate, distinct, and not related, for the redemption to
be considered a legitimate tax scheme. 100 Redemption cannot be
used as a cloak to distribute corporate earnings. 101 Otherwise, the
apparent intention to avoid tax becomes doubtful as the intention
to evade becomes manifest. It has been ruled that:
[A]n operation with no business or corporate purpose — is a mere
devise which put on the form of a corporate reorganization as a
disguise for concealing its real character, and the sole object and
accomplishment of which was the consummation of a
preconceived plan, not to reorganize a business or any part of a
business, but to transfer a parcel of corporate shares to a
stockholder. 102

Depending on each case, the exempting provision of Sec. 83(b) of
the 1939 Code may not be applicable if the redeemed shares were
issued with bona fide business purpose, 103 which is judged after
each and every step of the transaction have been considered and
the whole transaction does not amount to a tax evasion scheme.
ANSCOR invoked two reasons to justify the redemptions — (1) the
alleged “filipinization” program and (2) the reduction of foreign
exchange remittances in case cash dividends are declared. The
Court is not concerned with the wisdom of these purposes but on
their relevance to the whole transaction which can be inferred from
the outcome thereof. Again, it is the “net effect rather than the
motives and plans of the taxpayer or his corporation”104 that is the
fundamental guide in administering Sec. 83(b). This tax provision
is aimed at the result. 105 It also applies even if at the time of the
issuance of the stock dividend, there was no intention to redeem it
as a means of distributing profit or avoiding tax on
dividends. 106 The existence of legitimate business purposes in
support of the redemption of stock dividends is immaterial in
income taxation. It has no relevance in determining “dividend
equivalence”. 107 Such purposes may be material only upon the
issuance of the stock dividends. The test of taxability under the
exempting clause, when it provides “such time and manner” as
would make the redemption “essentially equivalent to the
distribution of a taxable dividend”, is whether the redemption
resulted into a flow of wealth. If no wealth is realized from the
redemption, there may not be a dividend equivalence treatment. In
the metaphor of Eisner v. Macomber, income is not deemed
“realize” until the fruit has fallen or been plucked from the tree.
The three elements in the imposition of income tax are: (1) there
must be gain or and profit, (2) that the gain or profit is realized or
received, actually or constructively, 108 and (3) it is not exempted
by law or treaty from income tax. Any business purpose as to why
or how the income was earned by the taxpayer is not a
requirement. Income tax is assessed on income received from any
property, activity or service that produces the income because the
Tax Code stands as an indifferent neutral party on the matter of
where income comes from. 109
As stated above, the test of taxability under the exempting clause
of Section 83(b) is, whether income was realized through the
redemption of stock dividends. The redemption converts into
money the stock dividends which become a realized profit or gain
and consequently, the stockholder’s separate property. 110 Profits

derived from the capital invested cannot escape income tax. As
realized income, the proceeds of the redeemed stock dividends
can be reached by income taxation regardless of the existence of
any business purpose for the redemption. Otherwise, to rule that
the said proceeds are exempt from income tax when the
redemption is supported by legitimate business reasons would
defeat the very purpose of imposing tax on income. Such argument
would open the door for income earners not to pay tax so long as
the person from whom the income was derived has legitimate
business reasons. In other words, the payment of tax under the
exempting clause of Section 83(b) would be made to depend not
on the income of the taxpayer, but on the business purposes of a
third party (the corporation herein) from whom the income was
earned. This is absurd, illogical and impractical considering that the
Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) would be pestered with instances
in determining the legitimacy of business reasons that every
income earner may interposed. It is not administratively feasible
and cannot therefore be allowed.
The ruling in the American cases cited and relied upon by
ANSCOR that “the redeemed shares are the equivalent of dividend
only if the shares were not issued for genuine business
purposes”, 111 or the “redeemed shares have been issued by a
corporation bona fide” 112 bears no relevance in determining the
non-taxability of the proceeds of redemption ANSCOR, relying
heavily and applying said cases, argued that so long as the
redemption is supported by valid corporate purposes the proceeds
are not subject to tax. 113 The adoption by the courts below 114 of
such argument is misleading if not misplaced. A review of the cited
American cases shows that the presence or absence of “genuine
business purposes” may be material with respect to the issuance
or declaration of stock dividends but not on its subsequent
redemption. The issuance and the redemption of stocks are two
different transactions. Although the existence of legitimate
corporate purposes may justify a corporation’s acquisition of its
own shares under Section 41 of the Corporation Code, 115 such
purposes cannot excuse the stockholder from the effects of
taxation arising from the redemption. If the issuance of stock
dividends is part of a tax evasion plan and thus, without legitimate
business reasons, the redemption becomes suspicious which
exempting clause. The substance of the whole transaction, not its
form, usually controls the tax consequences.116

The two purposes invoked by ANSCOR, under the facts of this
case are no excuse for its tax liability. First, the alleged
“filipinization” plan cannot be considered legitimate as it was not
implemented until the BIR started making assessments on the
proceeds of the redemption. Such corporate plan was not stated in
nor supported by any Board Resolution but a mere afterthought
interposed by the counsel of ANSCOR. Being a separate entity, the
corporation can act only through its Board of Directors. 117 The
Board Resolutions authorizing the redemptions state only one
purpose — reduction of foreign exchange remittances in case cash
dividends are declared. Not even this purpose can be given
credence. Records show that despite the existence of enormous
corporate profits no cash dividend was ever declared by ANSCOR
from 1945 until the BIR started making assessments in the early
1970’s. Although a corporation under certain exceptions, has the
prerogative when to issue dividends, yet when no cash dividends
was issued for about three decades, this circumstance negates the
legitimacy of ANSCOR’s alleged purposes. Moreover, to issue
stock dividends is to increase the shareholdings of ANSCOR’s
foreign stockholders contrary to its “filipinization” plan. This would
also increase rather than reduce their need for foreign exchange
remittances in case of cash dividend declaration, considering that
ANSCOR is a family corporation where the majority shares at the
time of redemptions were held by Don Andres’ foreign heirs.
Secondly, assuming arguendo, that those business purposes are
legitimate, the same cannot be a valid excuse for the imposition of
tax. Otherwise, the taxpayer’s liability to pay income tax would be
made to depend upon a third person who did not earn the income
being taxed. Furthermore, even if the said purposes support the
redemption and justify the issuance of stock dividends, the same
has no bearing whatsoever on the imposition of the tax herein
assessed because the proceeds of the redemption are deemed
taxable dividends since it was shown that income was generated
Thirdly, ANSCOR argued that to treat as “taxable dividend” the
proceeds of the redeemed stock dividends would be to impose on
such stock an undisclosed lien and would be extremely unfair to
intervening purchase, i.e. those who buys the stock dividends after
their issuance. 118 Such argument, however, bears no relevance in
this case as no intervening buyer is involved. And even if there is
an intervening buyer, it is necessary to look into the factual milieu
of the case if income was realized from the transaction. Again, we

reiterate that the dividend equivalence test depends on such “time
and manner” of the transaction and its net effect. The undisclosed
lien119 may be unfair to a subsequent stock buyer who has no
capital interest in the company. But the unfairness may not be true
to an original subscriber like Don Andres, who holds stock
dividends as gains from his investments. The subsequent buyer
who buys stock dividends is investing capital. It just so happen that
what he bought is stock dividends. The effect of its (stock
dividends) redemption from that subsequent buyer is merely to
return his capital subscription, which is income if redeemed from
the original subscriber.
After considering the manner and the circumstances by which the
issuance and redemption of stock dividends were made, there is
no other conclusion but that the proceeds thereof are essentially
considered equivalent to a distribution of taxable dividends. As
“taxable dividend” under Section 83(b), it is part of the “entire
income” subject to tax under Section 22 in relation to Section
21 120 of the 1939 Code. Moreover, under Section 29(a) of said
Code, dividends are included in “gross income”. As income, it is
subject to income tax which is required to be withheld at source.
The 1997 Tax Code may have altered the situation but it does not
change this disposition.
Exchange is an act of taking or giving one thing for another
involving 122 reciprocal transfer 123 and is generally considered as a
taxable transaction. The exchange of common stocks with
preferred stocks, or preferred for common or a combination of
either for both, may not produce a recognized gain or loss, so long
as the provisions of Section 83(b) is not applicable. This is true in
a trade between two (2) persons as well as a trade between a
stockholder and a corporation. In general, this trade must be parts
of merger, transfer to controlled corporation, corporate acquisitions
or corporate reorganizations. No taxable gain or loss may be
recognized on exchange of property, stock or securities related to
reorganizations. 124
Both the Tax Court and the Court of Appeals found that ANSCOR
reclassified its shares into common and preferred, and that parts of
the common shares of the Don Andres estate and all of Doña
Carmen’s shares were exchanged for the whole 150.000 preferred
shares. Thereafter, both the Don Andres estate and Doña Carmen
remained as corporate subscribers except that their subscriptions

now include preferred shares. There was no change in their
proportional interest after the exchange. There was no cash flow.
Both stocks had the same par value. Under the facts herein, any
difference in their market value would be immaterial at the time of
exchange because no income is yet realized — it was a mere
corporate paper transaction. It would have been different, if the
exchange transaction resulted into a flow of wealth, in which case
income tax may be imposed. 125
Reclassification of shares does not always bring any substantial
alteration in the subscriber’s proportional interest. But the
exchange is different — there would be a shifting of the balance of
stock features, like priority in dividend declarations or absence of
voting rights. Yet neither the reclassification nor exchange per se,
yields realize income for tax purposes. A common stock represents
the residual ownership interest in the corporation. It is a basic class
of stock ordinarily and usually issued without extraordinary rights
or privileges and entitles the shareholder to a pro rata division of
profits. 126 Preferred stocks are those which entitle the shareholder
to some priority on dividends and asset distribution. 127
Both shares are part of the corporation’s capital stock. Both
stockholders are no different from ordinary investors who take on
the same investment risks. Preferred and common shareholders
participate in the same venture, willing to share in the profits and
losses of the enterprise. 128 Moreover, under the doctrine of
equality of shares — all stocks issued by the corporation are
presumed equal with the same privileges and liabilities, provided
that the Articles of Incorporation is silent on such differences. 129
In this case, the exchange of shares, without more, produces no
realized income to the subscriber. There is only a modification of
the subscriber’s rights and privileges — which is not a flow of
wealth for tax purposes. The issue of taxable dividend may arise
only once a subscriber disposes of his entire interest and not when
there is still maintenance of proprietary interest. 130
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision of the Court of
Appeals is MODIFIED in that ANSCOR’s redemption of 82,752.5
stock dividends is herein considered as essentially equivalent to a
distribution of taxable dividends for which it is LIABLE for the
withholding tax-at-source. The decision is AFFIRMEDin all other
Davide, Jr., C.J., Melo, Kapunan and Pardo, JJ., concur.